Monday, March 29, 2010

blintzes et al.

hangs with the kdubsguelph tdot crew were the best! i seriously love those guys to the moon, even if we are all collectively a little cray-cray. it's cray-cray in a good way (mostly.) we ended up going to great burger kitchen again - and i gotta say, night two was a little underwhelming. i figured i'd branch out and try the lamb burger, but i wanted it without blue cheese and they put it on anyway. the place has only been open since wednesday of this past week, so some blips are to be expected. my lamb burger was intensely overcooked and a dry tasting puck, flecked with acrid bits of carbon. not pleasant. they also didn't have veggie burgers for the veggies in the crew. le sigh. i hate it when i talk a place up and then it disappoints. you have to believe me - the mexican poutine and the onion rings were delicious and the classic burger was GOOD on friday night. like, seriously good! some people were complaining about the amount of onion rings but to me, it seemed on par with the portion size at harvey's.

we celebrated earth hour (somewhat reluctantly on my part - i hate mass forms of "political" action that mean jack s**t - i consider it cheap and throwaway - like international "buy nothing" day.) it was nice having 11 people clustered around our dining room table and finding that we could fit that number easily - it was a little squishy, but i like a table with peeps all around it.

for sunday breakkie i made us blintzes with blueberry sauce:

i couldn't find farmer's cheese so i used all cottage cheese in the filling - it was a little runny. next time i'm going to sub in some quark for 1/2 the amount of cottage cheese and drain the cottage cheese overnight to firm it up some. i do love a good blintz though. what's not to love about a stuffed, eggy pancake that then gets kissed again with hot butter in a frying pan and drenched in sauce?

we had a lazy day on sunday. went for a rainy bike ride to pick up some groceries i had forgotten about. then nany and poppa and momma and poppa d and ehmdo came over for dinner. we had a belated st. paddy's day feast. i made my baked corned beef (spread with mustard and brown sugar and then steamed in a foil packet for about 2-3 hours in a low oven. i made champ (mashed potatoes w/ scallions) and creamed cabbage that i also put some apples and freshly grated horseradish in. i also made a minted pea puree which was a big hit. i love peas!

for dessert i made a lemon chiffon pie in a graham cracker crust:

the recipe calls for a gingersnap crust but i didn't have it in me to make gingersnaps just to grind them up and i didn't want to sully my kitchen with a cheap box of purchased gingersnaps because i know i wouldn't have used them all and then i'd be stuck with a craptacular box of gingersnaps laying around in the pantry. i like a nice lemon chiffon pie - it's kind of nice and light and refreshing - it doesn't have the same intensity as a lemon curd.

i also LOVE hosting grandparents. especially nany and poppa because it's never too late a night, which is what you want on a rainy sunday. they come at 5:30pm, we have a nice pre-dinner drink and catch-up and then we eat and have tea and coffee and they're out the door by 9pm. totally civilized! they also got us some adorable easter goodies and housewarming gifts consisting of 2 very cute egg cups and a golf set for the dotytron and a frilly, girly, half apron for me which is almost too pretty to wear whilst cooking. i almost want to sew up the back and turn it into a skirt.

for today's night class packable dinner i made us a pretty effin' tasty dish. it's macaroni pasta tossed with roasted grape tomatoes, parsley, mint, feta, chickpeas, and garlicky, spicy shrimp in a lemon vinaigrette. the best part is that you can eat it hot, cold, or tepid:

to go with and to up my veggie intake a i made us a quick pickled cucumber-dill salad: i come with the book reviews.

"fire" is by kristin cashore, the same author who wrote that other YA fantasy-ish book i raved about, "graceling." it's spun as a companion to graceling sharing a minor character in common and taking place in the same world, but a different land from graceling. instead of those who are graced, the world of "fire" features monsters, which are spectacularly coloured, unspeakably beautiful versions of regular creatures and humans, but who through their beauty can entrance and control the minds of regular animals and people - more often than not to prey on them. "fire" is a monster girl who's living under the horrible, brutal legacy left by her monster father, who used his monster powers for his own capricious, selfish, and sadistic means. there's action, adventure, court intrigue and of course, a little romance. cashore makes a conscious effort to craft strong female characters who break (or bend) the mold and i applaud her for it. this book was really good, but fire is less of an enticing, anti-establishment heroine than graceling's katsa was. still an engaging, enjoyable read and i would definitely recommend it.

my work got a kindle to try out and when i was test-driving it, this book was one of the ones already loaded onto the e-reader. kathryn stockett's "the help" has been a huge, runaway, new york times bestselling word-of-mouth hit, from a first-time novelist. entertainment weekly grouped it with other word-of-mouth hits like "the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society" and "the time traveler's wife" - both of which became giant sleeper chart busters and were by first time authors. i had kind of dismissed it as mom lit and wasn't feeling it and then one day on the ttc when i was test-driving the kindle i flipped randomly to a chapter and started reading it and found myself sucked in. it's compulsively readable! i'd say it's strangely addictive - like if i tried to isolate what it is exactly that makes you want to keep turning the pages, i can't quite pinpoint it, but it's there all the same.

the help is about jackson mississippi's slow crawl towards a kinda sorta integration, told through a story-within-a-story approach. it tracks the lives of 3 different women, 2 of them black maids and 1 of them a white woman who embarks on a project to record the stories of "the help" as a way of becoming a journalist or writer. the book switches between their three perspectives and describes what life was like for african americans in a deeply segregated, racist community as the world was beginning to change around them. i found the maid characters were much more sympathetic than the white lady, who i still thought of as exploiting the maids for her own personal gain even as the narrative tries to attenuate that kind of dichotomous depiction. i wasn't buying it! some of the stories are horrid and makes you grateful at how far we've come (in some ways) and how deeply scarred the american south is by the burden of this racial history - how deeply entrenched the misconceptions and ignorance are. it's not the kind of book that lingers with you, but it's a fast quick read - like beachy vacation airplane reading.

"the photographer" is an awesome, awesome testament to the power and flexibility of the comic to tell a story. didier lefevre is the titular photographer, who follows a doctors without borders mission into afghanistan. he is aided by comic artist emmanuel guibert (who wrote "alan's war") and colorist/designer frederic lemercier. lefevre's gorgeous photos and observations are interspersed with illustrations that capture the rugged, barren beauty of the land and the differences of afghani culture - from the armed and exuberant muj to tribal leaders and those dispossessed by the war. the work of doctor's without borders is brought to startling light - these are noble, brave people and their organization will probably be the recipient of my charitable donations in future years. it's incredible. this is one of those stories made so much richer by the medium - the combination of text, drawings and photos adds a layer of depth that any one of those forms wouldn't have been able to capture singly. imagine an annotated national geographic article with drawings. this was a little difficult to get through - the communities of afghanis are quite impoverished and it's quite sad - your eye also wants to linger on each page and each of lefevre's brilliant photos.

finally, aravind adiga's "white tiger" - the booker prize winning novel about the thieving, grasping, indian underclass rising up against their masters. this book was an easy read, but i wasn't super into it. i wasn't feeling the main character (you're not really supposed to - he's very upfront about being a vicious murderer) but even knowing that i'm not supposed to necessarily feel aligned with him didn't make me more inclined to spend a lot of time with his voice inside my head. i also found the structuring of the novel a little needlessly cutesy and kind of condescending (it's structured as a series of letters that balram, the main character, is writing to the premier of china.) i guess it's a refreshing antidote to the whole post-colonial, magic realism thing - to show the dirty, poor, and great unwashed members of what the author refers to as the "rooster coop" - enslaved into horrible, disposable lives of deepest poverty by their own willingness to comply with the traditions of the caste system. i mean, i get it - the hideous underbelly of the world's biggest democracy - beset with poverty, corruption, blah blah blah. i just wasn't feeling it. it was an unpleasant read and not in the way that it's supposed to be discomfiting and unpleasant, more in that i was kinda like, well yeah, obvs. i could see why it would make the booker people go buck. people eat this shiz up. i'd give it a sideways thumb.

okay! i'm donezo!